Chile president launches health care reform project


Santiago (AFP)

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera launched on Sunday a reform project to create a "universal health plan" following months of protests against social inequality and his leadership.

"This plan is based on what the people have asked us for," said Pinera as he presented the project.

A poor public health system and sky-high private costs were among the main gripes of demonstrators.

Congress sat on Sunday to deal with a number of projects as part of Pinera's "social calendar" aimed at appeasing protesters.

The new health plan would benefit the 14.5 million people who rely on public services as well as the three million using private care.

Congress has tried to rush through social projects to help defuse the protest movement that began on October 18, initially as a reaction to a modest metro fare hike.

Twenty-nine people have died during the worst social unrest to hit Chile since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship ended 30 years ago.

One of Pinera's main policy changes has been to enact a law allowing the South American country to hold a referendum on changing the Pinochet-era constitution.

His new health plan will include "a guaranteed maximum waiting time (and) a drop in the price of medicines," as well as other changes, Pinera said.

He said the government would subsidize "the 200 main" medicines used for chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, resulting in a 60 percent reduction in costs.